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Temple signs 23 to National Letters of Intent

Matt Rhule AP

(Below is Temple’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

PHILADELPHIA (2/6/13) – The Temple University Football Program, under the leadership of first-year head coach Matt Rhule, signed 23 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

Geographically, the states best represented in the Owl class are Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Ten student-athletes list their hometowns in the Keystone state, while 10 hail from the Garden state.

Additionally, two signees call New York home; one signee comes from Virginia.

Temple’s 2013 recruiting class is ranked in the BIG EAST Conference at No. 7 by Rivals.com and No. 9 by Scout.com. The Owls’ earned the top ranking in the Mid-American Conference in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2012.

Ten of the 19 high school signees attended the Temple Football Camp (53%). Over the past four years (2010-13), 71 percent of the signees have attended the Temple Football Camps.

Seven of the signees—Dion Dawkins, Paul Layton, Jihaad Pretlow, John Rizzo, Averee Robinson, Adrian Sullivan, and Kiser Terry— enrolled in classes in January 2013. Layton is a transfer student from the University of Albany.

The Owls begin spring practice on March 22 in preparation for BIG EAST Conference play in 2013. The squad’s annual Cherry & White spring game is slated for Saturday, April 20 at 1 p.m. at Edberg-Olson Hall. Temple returns 46 letterwinners and 15 starters, including Freshman All-American and BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Tyler Matakevich.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 23 members of Temple’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Jarred Alwan
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-1 • 215
Cherry Hill, N.J. • Camden Catholic HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked the No. 23 player in the state of New Jersey … played for coach Gil Brooks at Camden Catholic HS … participated in the North-South Game … selected Temple over Boston College and West Virginia.

Personal: Jarred Alwan … born November 30, 1993 … parents are Narci and Gamal Alwan … plans to study risk management and actuarial science in the Fox School of Business.

Matt Barone
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-3 • 280
McKees Rocks, Pa. • Montour HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked 13th nationally at center … played for coach Lou Cerro at Montour HS … team went 35-6 during his prep career with a WPIAL title and a runner-up finish … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … as a junior, team went 12-3 and advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals in 2011.

Personal: Matt Barone … born March 2, 1995 … Montour teammate Tyler Haddock is a fellow Temple signee.

Buddy Brown
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-2 • 205
Williamstown, N.J. • Williamstown HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played for coach Frank Fucetola at Williamstown HS … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … as a junior, had 87 tackles, six sacks, and four forced fumbles … participated in the North-South Game… selected Temple over more than 20 other BCS offers, including Rutgers, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Personal: Shawn Brown, Jr. … born July 13, 1994 … parents are Tiffany and Shawn Brown, Sr. … has two sisters— Destiny (21) and Brianna (16) … father is a retired police officer … loves history … Williamstown teammate Jullian Taylor is a fellow Temple signee … considering a double major in kinesiology and business.

Brian Carter
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-4 • 280
Harrisburg, Pa. • Harrisburg HS

High School: Two-way lineman for coach Calvin Everett at Harrisburg HS … three-year starter … 2012 first-team All-Mid-Penn Conference honoree on offense … selected to participate in the Big 33 Game … selected Temple over Connecticut.

Personal: Brian Carter … born November 7, 1994 … parents are Melody Fleming and Melvin Washington … guardian is Tracey Smith.

Jim Cooper, Jr.
Placekicker/Punter • Freshman • 6-1 • 205
Linwood, N.J. • Mainland Regional HS

High School: U.S. Army All-American … three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played for coach Robert Coffey at Mainland Regional HS but kicking coach was his father, Jim Sr. … participated in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Personal: James Cooper, Jr. … born October 19, 1994 … parents are Marie and James Cooper, Sr. … father was also a kicker at Temple (1983-86) under head coach Bruce Arians.

Dion Dawkins
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 330
Rahway, N.J. • Rahway HS • Hargrave Military Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

Postgraduate: Played offensive tackle for coach Troy Davis during the 2012 season … bolstered an o-line that helped the Tigers rush for more than 150 yards per game … selected Temple over Cincinnati.

High School: Played offensive and defensive tackle for coach Gary Mobley at Rahway HS … graduated in 2012 … participated in the North-South Game.

Personal: Dion Ray Dawkins … born April 26, 1994 … parents are Lisa Dawkins and Eric Dawkins.

Sharif Finch
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-4 • 210
Henrico, Va. • Henrico HS

High School: Played linebacker for coach Roger Brookes … as a senior, had 84 tackles and five sacks … as a junior, had 161 tackles and 10.5 sacks … selected Temple over Miami and East Carolina.

Personal: Sharif Finch … born October 1, 1995… parents are Wendy Finch and Greg Finch … originally from Queens, N.Y.

Artrel Foster
Defensive Back • Freshman • 6-0 • 170
Meadville, Pa. • Meadville HS

High School: Played cornerback and running back for coach Mike Feleppa at Meadville HS … four-year varsity starter … in prep career, had 4,248 all-purpose yards, including 3,249 rushing yards on 499 carries, 37 touchdowns, 130 tackles, and six interceptions … 2012 District 10 Region 5 first-team honoree on defense, second-team honoree on offense … rushed for 101 yards in 2012 season opener against Northwestern … named one of the Top 100 juniors in Pennsylvania … 2011 District 10 Region 5 first-team honoree on defense, second-team honoree on offense … rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and sophomore … as a junior, had three interceptions … also a 2012 first-team All-Region honoree in basketball on defense and second-team All-Region on offense … attended the 2012 Temple Football Camp … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … also played basketball … selected Temple over Cincinnati and Penn State.

Personal: Artrel Jonte Foster … born June 24, 1995, in Meadville, Pa. …. parents are Tammy Foster and Art Bell … has an older sister, Asia Foster (24), and a younger brother, Armoni Foster (13) … cousin is Wade Manning, former WR/CB (1979-82) for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos … considering a career in graphic design or athletic training.

Tyler Haddock
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-2 • 290
Pittsburgh, Pa. • Montour HS

High School: Three-year letterwinner at defensive tackle for coach Lou Cerro at Montour HS … unanimous All-Parkway Conference selection as a two-way player … team went 35-6 during his prep career with a WPIAL title and a runner-up finish … in prep career, had 120 tackles and 15 sacks … as a junior, team went 12-3 and advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals in 2011 … totaled 100career tackles, 26 TFL, 15 sacks, and three fumble recoveries at the end of his junior season … also a three-year letterwinner in wrestling … went 60-29 … attended the 2012 Temple Football Camp … started in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … Honor Roll student … active with Big Brothers/Big Sisters … selected Temple over Georgia Tech and Rutgers.

Personal: Tyler James Haddock … born December 16, 1994, in Pittsburgh, Pa. … parents are Sharon Jones and John Jones (stepfather) … Montour teammate Matt Barone is a fellow Temple signee … intends to study sports management.

Todd Jeter
Defensive Back • Freshman • 6-0 • 169
Monroeville, Pa. • Gateway HS

High School: Played wide receiver and defensive back for former coach Terry Smith, now at Temple, at Gateway HS … also returned punts … 2012 All-State selection … 2012 Quad East All-Star … 2012 second-team All-Foothills Conference honoree on defense … helped the Gators to a 9-2 record in 2012 en route to a Quad East championship with a perfect 8-0 record … team advanced to the WPIAL AAAA playoffs … as a senior in 2012, had 322 receiving yards and two touchdowns while making 27 tackles and two interceptions … averaged 20 yards per catch … played for the North squad in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … selected for the 2013 Big 33 Game.

Personal: Todd Jeter … mother is Renee Boswell.

Leon Johnson
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-6 • 300
Plainfield, N.J. • Bound Brook HS

High School: Two-way lineman for coach Dom Longo at Bound Brook HS … as a senior, had 20 tackles, including 15 solo stops … also played center for the Crusaders’ basketball team … selected Temple over South Florida and Ohio State.

Personal: Hubert Leon Johnson … prefers middle name … born June 4, 1995 … mother is Valerie Graves.

Paul Layton
Punter • Senior • 6-1 • 215
Burnt Hills, N.Y. • Ballston Lake HS • Albany

Transfer student from the University at Albany … enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … graduated in December 2012 … has one season of eligibility.

Honors: 2012, 2011, and 2010 first-team All-Northeast Conference honoree … 2012 College Football Performance FCS Punter Watch List … 2012 All-Northeast Conference Preseason Team … named the 2011 Great Danes’ Most Valuable Special Teams Player (team award) … named a 2011 ECAC Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Special Team All-Star … Northeast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week (twice) … 2010 NEC Academic Honor Roll … 2009 Capital District Student Scholarship.

College: Three-year letterwinner at punter for head coach Bob Ford at the University at Albany … averaged 41.0 yards in career. 2012: Played in all 11 games at punter … averaged a league-best 40.4 yards per punt, including a program record 82-yarder vs. Wagner (11/3) … punted 46 times with 11 sailing 50-yards or longer … dropped 15 within the 20-yard line. 2011: Averaged 42.6 yards per punt, ranking 9th among the national leaders … booted 17 kicks of 50 or more yards. 2010: Averaged 40.1 yard per punt as a redshirt freshman … ranked 31st among the national leaders and third in the Northeast Conference … placed 14 punts inside the 20-yard line, including seven for touchbacks … booted 50-plus yard punts 12 times … tied 13th-longest punt in school history with 69-yarder in season finale against Monmouth … kicked a 63-yard punt at Duquesne and a 61-yarder at Maine. 2009: Redshirted. Selected Temple over Penn State and Notre Dame.

High School: Four-year letterwinner for coach Matt Shell at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake HS … 2008 Class A first-team All-State selection by New York State Sportswriters Association as a kicker … made 68 of 69 PATs and three field goals … third on all-time Section II kicking list with 77 points … averaged 42 yards per punt … all-time leader in Section II history with 172 career kicking points … 2008 Large School Offensive Player of the Year by the Albany Times Union … first-team All-Area by Daily Gazette and Troy Record … led high school to state championship game as a quarterback … passed for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns … rushed for 1,186 yards and 20 TDs … BHBL won second sectional title in last three years … consensus All-Area punter as a junior, when he averaged 41 yards per attempt … earned third-team All-State honors as a quarterback … career stats: 2,861 passing yards, 34 passing TDs, 2,002 rushing yards, 28 rushing TDs … four varsity awards as basketball guard … two-time team captain … National Honor Society member … Math Honor Society member … Business Honor Society member … participated in Big Brothers.

Personal: Paul K. Layton … born November 5, 1990, in Burnt Hills, N.Y. … parents are Karen and Jim Layton … has two older sisters, Jessica (32) and Lauren (26), and an older brother, Steve (30) … all siblings were college athletes … brother played tight end at Union College … Jessica played soccer at Syracuse, and Lauren played field hockey at SUNY Oswego … graduated from Albany in December 2012 with a degree in business administration… pursuing a master’s degree in marketing.

Jihaad Pretlow
Defensive Back • Freshman • 5-11 • 185
Elizabeth, N.J. • Blair Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

High School: Played running back for coach Jim Stone at Blair Academy … as a junior, rushed for 838 yards and 19 touchdowns as the Bucs went 7-0 overall … also made four interceptions as a defensive back … played two seasons with nationally ranked basketball team … selected Temple over Connecticut, Penn State, and Rutgers.

Personal: Jihaad Pretlow … born March 15, 1994 … parents are Bayyinah Pretlow and Malik Jackson … father played football at Rutgers in the early 1990s … played Pop Warner football with fellow Temple signee P.J. Walker.

Shane Rafter
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-4 • 282
Moorestown, N.J. • Moorestown HS

High School: Played offensive and defensive tackle for coach Russ Horton … three-year letterwinner … 2012 All-County honoree on defense … helped the Quaker to the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs … as a junior, had 61 tackles and three sacks … the first player to commit to Temple in the 2013 class … participated in the 2011 National Underclassmen Combine … also a two-year letterwinner in track and ice hockey … selected Temple over Connecticut, Rutgers, and Syracuse.

Personal: Shane Rafter … born July 7, 1994 … parents are John and Barb Rafter … has a sister, Jamie.

Semaj Reed
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-7 • 270
Philadelphia, Pa. • Haverford School

High School: Played defensive end for coach Michael Murphy at the Haverford School … also played basketball … selected Temple over Buffalo and Maryland.

Personal: Semaj Reed … mother is Jacqueline Reed … originally from Newburgh, N.Y. … interested in political science, criminal justice, and business.

John Rizzo
Fullback • Freshman • 6-1 • 221
Johnstown, Pa. • Richland HS

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

High School: Played running back for coach Brandon Bailey at Richland HS … 2012 Tribune-Democrat first-team All-Area … as a senior, rushed for 1,769 yards and 20 touchdowns … played in the East-East Game … three-time state heavyweight wrestling champion … selected Temple over Penn State, Pitt, and Georgia Tech.

Personal: John Rizzo … born February 13, 1993 … parents are Lynda and Tony Rizzo … has six siblings— Anthony (26), Marlena (24), Frank (23), Joe (21), Christina (15), and Mario (14).

Averee Robinson
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-1 • 285
Harrisburg, Pa. • Susquehanna Township HS • Milford Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … originally signed National Letter of Intent with Temple in February 2012.

Postgraduate: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played the 2012 season for coach Bill Chaplick at Milford Academy.

High School: Played defensive tackle for coach Joe Headen at Susquehanna Township HS … 2011 Harrisburg Patriot-News first-team Defensive All-Star … as a junior, had 46 tackles and eight sacks … also wrestled … won consecutive PIAA heavyweight wrestling championship in 2012 and 2011… attended the 2010 Temple Football Camp.

Personal: Averee Robinson … born October 17, 1993 … parents are Terry and Adrian Robinson, Sr. … older brother is former Temple Owl and three-time first-team All-MAC DE Adrian Robinson (2008-11) who just finished his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Adrian Sullivan
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 270
Babylon, N.Y. • Babylon HS • Worchester Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

Postgraduate: Played one season for coach Tony Johnson at Worcester Academy (Mass.) … Honor Roll student.

High School: Played offensive tackle and defensive end for coach Rick Punzone at Babylon Junior-Senior HS … team went 15-6 his last two seasons … named to the 2012 Best Players on Long Island Honor Roll for basketball.

Personal: Adrian Sullivan, Jr. … parents are Sonja Stewart and the late Adrian Sullivan, Sr. … uncle is former Temple and current San Diego Chargers assistant coach Andrew Dees.

Jullian Taylor
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 230
Glenside, Pa. • Williamstown (N.J.) HS

High School: Versatile athlete … played defensive end, tight end, and linebacker for coach Frank Fucetola at Williamstown HS … 2012 All-State, All-Mid Athletic, All-Group 5, and All-South Jersey honoree … team went a perfect 12-0 en route to the 2012 state Class 5 championship as a senior, had 60 tackles and 14 sacks … participated in the North-South Game … volunteered for Mastery Charter School’s beautification project … selected Temple over Iowa and Virginia Tech.

Personal: Jullian Patrick Taylor … born January 30, 1995, in Philadelphia, Pa. … parents are Rufus Taylor and Rolanda Brewer … has a younger brother, Jay (8), and a younger sister, Mia (8) … father is a Temple alum who was a walk-on the men’s basketball team in 1989 … Williamstown teammate Buddy Brown is a fellow Temple signee … intends to study business.

Kiser Terry
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-3 • 260
Feasterville, Pa. • Neshaminy HS • Milford Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … originally signed National Letter of Intent with Temple in February 2012.

Postgraduate: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played the 2012 season for coach Bill Chaplick at Milford Academy … saw action at defensive end.

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … selected to play in the 2012 Big 33 Game and the 2011 Chesapeake Bowl … team captain … played defensive end and tight end for coach Mark Schmidt at Neshaminy HS … 2011 PA Football News Honorable Mention All-State honoree … 2011 EasternPAFootball.com Honorable Mention All-State selection … 2011 Philadelphia Inquirer first-team All-Southeastern PA pick … 2011 Suburban One first-team All-Conference honoree … 2011 Neshaminy Mr. Lineman coaches’ award recipient … 2010 second-team All-Conference selection … Redskins went 12-2 in 2010, his junior season, and advanced to the District 1 AAAA championship game … as a junior, had 47 tackles, including 40 solo stops, a team-best six sacks, and three forced fumbles.

Personal: Kiser Terry … born August 11, 1993 … mother is Betty Terry … older brother Terrell Channell lettered in football at Temple in 2006.

Jahad Thomas
Running Back • Freshman • 5-10 • 170
Elizabeth, N.J. • Elizabeth HS

High School: Ranked the fourth-best running back in the state of New Jersey … all-purpose back for coach John Quinn at Elizabeth HS … helped team to the 2012 state title … participated in the North-South Game … captained two sports as a junior … starter on the nationally ranked basketball team.

Personal: Jahad Thomas … born November 6, 1995 … parents are Connie Thomas and Eddie Roberts … Elizabeth HS teammate P.J. Walker is a fellow Temple signee.

P.J. Walker
Quarterback • Freshman • 6-1 • 200
Elizabeth, N.J. • Elizabeth HS

High School: Dual-threat quarterback for coach John Quinn at Elizabeth HS … 2012 Newark-Star Ledger State Offensive Player of the Year … helped team to the 2012 state title … as a junior, one of the state’s most accurate passers … went 120-of-189 (63.5 percent) for 2,168 yards and 18 touchdowns … in the NJSIAA sectional final against Piscataway, threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 199 yards and a touchdown … four-year starter … participated in the North-South Game … also played basketball … team reached the 2012 Group 4 final … selected Temple over Connecticut and Rutgers.

Personal: Phillip Walker, Jr. … born February 26, 1995… parents are Tamicha Drake and Phillip Walker, Sr. … Elizabeth HS teammate Jahad Thomas is a fellow Temple signee … played Pop Warner football with fellow Temple signee Jihaad Pretlow.

Zaire Williams
Running Back • Freshman • 5-11 • 188
Sicklerville, N.J. • Timber Creek HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked by Rivals as the No. 36 overall running back and New Jersey’s 16th-best player overall … played for coach Rob Hinson … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … selected Temple over West Virginia.

Personal: Zaire Williams … born October 25, 1994 … father is Bruce Williams.

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Pitt and Colorado State interviewed MSU’s Pat Narduzzi

Pat Narduzzi

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has been mentioned as a potential candidate for various head coaching opportunities over the last couple of years now after establishing one of the top defensive programs in the country in East Lansing. It now appears Narduzzi is flirting with the opportunity to take on the role of head coach more seriously than ever before.

Narduzzi has interviewed for the head coaching openings at Colorado State and Pittsburgh, according to a report by MLive.com. Narduzzi reportedly interviewed with Colorado State earlier in the week and with Pittsburgh on Friday. Both coaches lost head coaches to other power-conference programs this offseason. Colorado State’s Jim McElwain took a job offer at Florida and Pittsburgh most recently lost Paul Chryst to Wisconsin.

It seems as though Michigan State has already been preparing Narduzzi for the chance to be a head coach, as well as a plan to replace their defensive coordinator if and when the time comes. Narduzzi has been given extra responsibilities to prepare him for being a head coach, which has benefits for Michigan State as well, and MLive.com says Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio is supportive of his assistant and ready to

“When that point in time happens, we’ve had this happen enough for us that we’ll be prepared,” Dantonio said previously. “Up until that time it’s status quo. It’s a good situation.”

Narduzzi checking out his options is nothing new. Just a year ago Narduzzi interviewed with UConn and he had been connected as a candidate to a few other jobs as well.

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Stagg Bowl XLII: Wisconsin-Whitewater claims sixth DIII title in eight years

Lance Leipold

The Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks are champions once again.

Since Lance Leipold took over the the program in 2007, the Warhawks have done nothing but win football games.

The team’s sixth championship — all under Leipold’s watch — came Friday in Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl XLII when the Warhawks once again beat the Mount Union Purple Raiders 42-34 to claim the program’s second straight Division III national championship.

Leipold will leave the program in style.

As the fastest coach ever at any level of college football to reach 100 wins, Leipold was tabbed as the next head coach of the Buffalo Bulls. It’s a big jump in competition for a Division III head coach, but Leipold just must be the exception if his early success as a head coach is any indication.

The two teams combined for 1,168 total yards and seven turnovers.

Mount Union shot itself in the foot with five turnovers. Quarterback Kevin Burke — the only two-time winner of the Gagliardi Trophy as the top player at the Division III level — threw four interceptions. He only threw five the entire season before Friday’s effort.

Wisconsin-Whitewater quarterback Matt Behrendt, meanwhile, received plenty of help as he completed 26 of 38 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns.

Warhawks wide receiver Jake Kumerow was the best player on the field. The 6-5 target was nearly unstoppable throughout the contest and finished the game with eight receptions for 130 yards. Dennis Moore added 108 yards only on two catches. Finally, running back Jordan Ratliffe proved to be a workhorse with 24 carries for 116 yards.

Wisconsin-Whitewater’s offensive production along with Mount Union’s turnovers were the recipe for yet another Warhawks championship.

After meeting each other in the Stagg Bowl nine out of the last 10 years, Wisconsin-Whitewater has now gotten the best of Mount Union six out of the last seven times.

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RB Deantre Lewis abruptly leaves Arizona State Sun Devils

Colorado v Arizona State

Senior running back Deantre Lewis will not finish his career as a member of the Arizona State Sun Devils.

After finishing the regular season with 298 total yards as both a running back and a wide receiver, Lewis will not play in the Sun Bowl against the Duke Blue Devils.

No reason was given for Lewis departure, but Arizona State head coach Todd Graham confirmed he is no longer part of the program.

Lewis career never blossomed after a promising freshman campaign. During his first year on campus, Lewis produced three straight 100-yard games against the Wisconsin Badgers, Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers. He never ran for more than 64 yards in any single game during the rest of his career.

The running back was a victim of a random shooting in 2012. Upon his return, he was stuck on the depth chart behind Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. Lewis was then shifted to the defensive side of the football for a short period. He suffered an MCL injury in 2014. He was even called out publicly by his coach.

After an average senior season, it appears Lewis finally had enough.

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Gus Malzahn uncertain of D’haquille Williams’ status for Outback Bowl

D'haquille Williams

Auburn wide receiver D’haquille Williams continues to be bothered by lingering injuries and illness.

The Outback Bowl is 13 days away, but Auburn’s leading receiver isn’t currently on track to play in the game.

When asked about whether Williams would definitely play against the Wisconsin Badgers, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn wasn’t willing to commit one way or another.

“Not at this point,” Malzahn told Al.com’s Joel A. Erickson.

Williams missed two of Auburn’s final three games due to a sprained MCL and a bruised knee that he suffered Nov. 8 against the Texas A&M Aggies. The JUCO transfer returned for the Iron Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide and caught seven passes for 121 yards.

However, the talented wide receiver hasn’t been feeling well.

“He has not practiced,” Malzahn said. “He was sick and he’s got some treatment things to do from the last game.”

Despite missing those two games, Williams still leads the Tigers with 45 receptions for 730 yards. The 6-2, 216-pound receiver has proven to be the security blanket for quarterback Nick Marshall.

If Williams can’t play, the Badgers will roll coverage toward Auburn’s deep threat, Sammie Coates. The junior will be playing his last game as a member of the Tigers before he’s NFL bound.

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Former four-star TE transfers from Vanderbilt to Colorado State

team headshots(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

The Colorado State Rams don’t have a head coach yet, but they’ve already landed a big commitment.

Tight end Mitchell Parsons was one of the crown jewels in the Vanderbilt Commodores’ 2013 recruiting class. The former four-star recruit was considered the nation’s seventh-best tight end prospect, according to Rivals.com.

After a redshirt season and no playing time this year, the native of Parker, Colorado, decided he wanted to play closer to home.

Parsons’ transfer shouldn’t come as a surprise. He originally committed to head coach James Franklin, who left to take the job at Penn State less than a year later. Vanderbilt’s offense will again transition this offseason after new head coach Derek Mason fired offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell.

The tight end might not know who he’ll be playing for at Colorado State, but at least his family will only be an hour or so down the road.

Parsons will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Once he is eligible to play, he’ll have an opportunity to replace Steven Walker, who will be a senior in 2015, as the team’s starting tight end.

(Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt athletic department)

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Missouri will be without its second-leading receiver for Citrus Bowl

Jimmie Hunt ,Jabriel Washington

The Missouri Tigers will be without their second-leading receiver, Jimmie Hunt, for the Citrus Bowl against the Minnesota Gophers. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dave Matter reported Hunt underwent shoulder surgery Wednesday.

Hunt was second on the team in receptions (40), yardage (698) and receiving touchdowns (7) this season. The senior is also coming off the best game of his career against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game. Hunt amassed an impressive 169 yards after beating the Alabama secondary deep multiple times.

Without Hunt in the lineup, the Tigers’ spread offense will feature a new slot receiver.

The two receivers Missouri’s head coach mentioned have caught a total of five passes this season. Otte, a senior, is the experienced option, but Brown presents a matchup problem at 6-3 and 205 pounds. Both may be required to step up in Hunt’s absence.

Minnesota is yet another big and physical team in Missouri’s way. The Tigers’ spread offense needs to be firing on all cylinders to score quickly once the Gophers try to control the clock with their running game and sound defense.

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Big 12 would look ‘East not West’ if league decides to expand

Bob Bowlsby

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby provided the first hint of possible expansion during an interview on 740 AM the Game with the Orlando Sentinel‘s Mike Bianchi.

Expansion could be vital for the league as it moves forward after being left out of the first College Football Playoff.

Once the Baylor Bears and TCU Horned Frogs weren’t included as one of the nation’s top four teams, the Big 12 Conference became the only Power Five league without representation in the inaugural playoff system.

Two reasons became evident why the Big 12 was left out of the mix.

First, the Big 12 only has 10 teams. The NCAA prevents a league from hosting a championship game if it has less than 12 teams. As a result, the champions of the Big 12 played one less game than those teams that won their championship game.

In an attempt to make both the Baylor and TCU enticing candidates — because the Horned Frogs were rated higher even though they lost to the Bears — the conference decided its “One True Champion” would include both teams and the College Playoff Committee could decide which team should be more highly ranked.

Instead, the league’s decision backfired since neither team was seen as a true champion of their conference.

The most likely solution to the Big 12’s problem is to acquire a waiver from the NCAA to hold a championship game. After all, the Big 12 places a higher value on monetary gain than true competitive balance.

“We divide the money 10 ways,” Bowlsby told Bianchi, via UCFSports.com. “Right now, we’re distributing the largest amount of money to each of our members in any league in college athletics. I don’t know that our members are prepared to take a reduction in that distributable revenue. It’s certainly about TV sets. It’s certainly about recruiting. It’s certainly about the possibility of competitive implications in all of our sports, but particularly our high-profile sports. At the present time we have no strategy. We haven’t had any discussions around expansion. Our CEOs have said they like 10. I expect that we’ll be at 10 for a while. Could that change down the road? Sure it could… I don’t think we’re going to take a kneejerk reaction and think immediately about expansion just because on this occasion we got left out of the playoff.”

While Bowlsby expects an answer for the league’s appeal within six months, expansion might quickly develop into a legitimate option if the NCAA doesn’t approve the waiver.

The commissioner provided an initial hint of what the league might do once league expansion is back on the table.

“We have one member in West Virginia that’s on the East Coast,” Bowlsby said. “We have to be mindful of their situation. If we took somebody in that was on the far West Coast it would certainly do a disservice to our member in West Virginia. As I mentioned earlier, it may be a different set of criteria to some of our members than it is to other members. As the commissioner, I certainly have to take all 10 institutions and their sensitivities into play.”

The two obvious candidates would be the Cincinnati Bearcats and the UCF Knights. Cincinnati would provide a travel partner and a rival for West Virginia. UCF, meanwhile, is an burgeoning program that would allow the Big 12 to get into the talent-rich state of Florida for recruiting purposes.

Bowlsby’s inclination to look at teams in the eastern half of the United State would exclude the BYU Cougars and Boise State Broncos, both of which would be strong candidates as football programs.

“We don’t have any schools on our radar at the present time,” Bowlsby said. “As you know, the Grant of Rights was noted earlier in the previous question. Our institutions all have granted their rights to the Big 12. Several other conferences have Grants of Rights. There are some institutions that are essentially off the table. We don’t have any expansion initiative. We don’t have any list of prospects. We don’t have any plans to expand. As our athletic directors, our CEOs, talk about what the model looks like, talk about the challenges of the future and talk about the immediate past experience we had with the playoff, you know, those are things that are going to get discussed. But we don’t have any list. We don’t have any initiative. I would say that the status quo is by far the most attractive status to most of our members.”

While the Big 12 doesn’t have any current plans to expand, Bowlby’s stance has slightly softened in the past 11 days.

The league’s future expansion now hinges on the NCAA’s decision to allow the Big 12 to hold a championship game with on 10 members. If the appeal is denied, the expansion conversation will intensify.

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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 20 Viewer’s Guide

Mark Hudspeth AP

Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 20 bowl menu, which on “opening weekend” features five bowl games as the 2014 postseason kicks off.

WHO: Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
WHAT: The 14th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Unless you were on Bourbon Street the night before, what better way to cap off your Saturday morning, and start the 2014 bowl season, than with a little Mountain West vs. Sun Belt action?  After never making a bowl in the first 38 years of the football program’s existence, Louisiana-Lafayette has now qualified for four straight under Mark Hudspeth.  Not only that, but they’ve won their first three appearances — all of which came in this very bowl.  Nevada, meanwhile, has lost its last two bowl games and six of its last eight.  The Ragin’ Cajuns are also playing very well as they head into the postseason, closing out the regular season with a 7-1 burst.  That burst came after a 1-3 start to the season that featured losses to nationally-ranked Ole Miss and Boise State as well as Conference USA runner-up Louisiana Tech. UL-L will prove to be a significant challenge to Nevada, one that Cody Fajardo and the Wolf Pack may not be able to overcome.
THE LINE: Louisiana-Lafayette, +1
THE PREDICTION: Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Nevada 27

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WHO: Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5)
WHAT: The 9th Gildan New Mexico Bowl
WHERE: University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM
WHEN: 2:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you’re a fan of old school football that features copious amounts of defense and pounding yards out on the ground, this game is for you.  Utah State is very stingy defensively, giving up just 20.8 points per game (21st nationally).  USU is also very good against the run (26th, giving up 129.2 ypg); that also happens to be UTEP’s strength offensively (35th, 213.8 ypg).  The Aggies, though, are coming off their worst performance of the season, giving up 50 points and nearly 500 yards in the regular-season finale against Boise State.  Something tells me that it’ll be the Miners who will end up paying the price for that debacle.
THE LINE: UTEP, +10½
THE PREDICTION: Utah State 48, UTEP 17

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WHO: Utah (8-4) vs. Colorado State (10-2)
WHAT: The 23rd Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.
WHEN: 3:30 ET on ABC
THE SKINNY: The first day of bowl action has landed what could be one of the best and most intriguing matchups of the postseason.  Colorado State is coming off its best regular season in over a decade, but will also be without its head coach as Jim McElwain took the Florida job and won’t coach in the bowl game.  Utah, the only Power Five team in action today, began the 2014 season 6-1, but stumbled to a 2-3 finish that eliminated it from contention for a significantly more important bowl berth.  The teams do have one 2014 opponent in common in Colorado, with CSU winning at home 31-17 in Week 1 and the U of U winning 38-34 in Week 14 on the road.  A significant focus for Utah’s defense, one of the best in the country, will be shutting down All-American wide receiver Rashard Higgins.  If the Utes can accomplish that feat — it won’t be easy as Higgins has at least 143 yards receiving in each of the last seven games — it would go a long way in securing their first bowl win since after the 2011 season.
THE LINE: Colorado State, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Utah 27, Colorado State 20

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WHO: Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Air Force (9-3)
WHAT: The 18th Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Id.
WHEN: 5:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This game very easily could’ve been called the Turnaround Bowl.  The fact that either team, let alone both, are playing in the postseason somewhat constitutes a minor miracle as Air Force won a mere two games in 2013 while Western Michigan trumped even that with just a single win last season.  This game is also your classic immovable object vs. irresistible force matchup: WMU is 37th in the country in rushing yards given up per game (142.7) while AF, as service academies ofttimes are, is seventh in rushing offense at 272.2 yards per game.  Throw in how the Falcons gain those yards on the ground, and it could be a long day for the Broncos.
THE LINE: Western Michigan, +1
THE PREDICTION: Air Force 37, Western Michigan 24

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WHO: South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6)
WHAT: The Inaugural Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
WHERE: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.
WHEN: 9:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: It’s appropriate that South Alabama is appearing in the first-ever Camellia Bowl as the Jaguars, who moved to the FBS level three years ago, are making their first-ever bowl appearance.  Their opponents, meanwhile, are playing in their seventh bowl game the past 12 years.  The Jaguars have struggled to score points all year long, with their 20.2 points per game ranking 113th out of 128 FBS teams.  The Falcons, meanwhile, have struggled to stop the opposition from scoring all season, as its 33.9 ppg (109th nationally) attests.  Whichever trend continues will play a significant role in determining the outcome.
THE LINE: Bowling Green, +3
THE PREDICTION: Bowling Green 38, South Alabama 24

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Danny Hope officially added to Willie Taggart’s USF staff

Danny Hope

After a two-season absence, Hope — and one of the best mustaches — has returned to college football.

Following up on a couple of days worth of speculation, USF announced Friday afternoon that Danny Hope has been added to Willie Taggart‘s coaching staff at USF.  The long-time college assistant will serve as the Bulls’ co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

The co-coordinator title is mildly surprising as all of the rumors had centered around Hope being the line coach. Instead, Hope will share coordinating duties with David Reaves, who was, the release stated, “promoted to co-offensive coordinator with oversight of the Bulls’ passing attack.”

Hope has spent the past two seasons on the coaching sidelines after his dismissal as Purdue’s head coach in November of 2012. Interestingly, this is the first time in a collegiate career that spans nearly three decades that Hope’s had the coordinator title in his job description. Previously, he had either been the assistant head coach (Louisville) or the offensive line coach (Oklahoma, Louisville, Wyoming) or both (Purdue).

“Danny is one of the best offensive line coaches in college football and a Florida native with strong ties to the Bay Area,” Taggart said in a statement. “He is a leader and a great recruiter who has helped to build and orchestrate some very successful offenses at several stops in major college football. I’m excited to welcome Danny and his family back to Florida and get to work.”

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Leukemia fighter, frosh DB to serve as captain in Chips’ bowl game

Derrick Nash

If you recall, last May we made mention of a heartwarming story coming out of Central Michigan.  Shortly after signing with CMU in February of 2013, Derrick Nash was diagnosed with leukemia and was told that he’d be forced to sit out that season.  Nash vowed to return to the playing field, while the university vowed to honor his scholarship.

The running back did return, playing in the spring game earlier this year.  Unfortunately, the leukemia returned as well, forcing the player to miss a second straight season as he underwent additional chemotherapy.  As the Chips prepare to play Western Kentucky in the Popeyes Bahama Bowl Christmas Eve, though, Nash will be a part of the team in the postseason.

According to the school, Nash will serve as the honorary captain for the Chips in their postseason game.  Head coach Dan Enos said in a statement that the NCAA, as well as his doctors, signed of recently on allowing Nash to perform the ceremonial duties.

And, it should be noted, get that free trip to the Bahamas he’s earned.

“We had to file a waiver with the NCAA to clear him just to invite him on the trip,” Enos said. “When we got the waiver that we could bring him that was a real blessing. Then we didn’t know if he was going to be able to go and to have his doctors clear him to go was another blessing.

“Our team loves him, he’s part of our family. He’s been through a lot obviously and I think our team loves to have one of our own as a captain, but a guy like Derrick who we draw so much strength from just watching how courageous he is every day and what an inspiration he is to our entire program.”

Both the player and the football program are hopeful he can return to the playing field in 2015 in something other than an honorary role.

(Photo credit: Central Michigan athletics)

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Report: Harbaugh’s family, friends encouraging him to take UM job

Jim Harbaugh AP

The will-he-or-won’t-he spinning of the Wheel of Harbaugh has taken yet another turn, perhaps the most interesting and dramatic one in this whole extended soap opera.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, and citing sources close to the situation, the family and friends of San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh “have been encouraging him to take the Michigan [head coaching] job, but he is torn because his heart is in the NFL.” Perhaps most importantly, and especially if the coach’s household hierarchy is anything like mine, “Harbaugh’s wife also is said to be open and on board to him going back to Ann Arbor if that’s what he wants.”

It’s previously been reported/speculated that Harbaugh’s wife would be against a move from California to Ann Arbor; if Schefter’s report is accurate, that would remove one potential obstacle.

Schefter’s report comes two days after a report surfaced that Michigan was prepared to over Harbaugh a contract in the neighborhood of $8 million annually over six years. Thursday, Harbaugh declined to answer when asked directly if his alma mater had offered him a contract.

Harbaugh’s father could also be a family member who’s nudging his son in the direction of the Wolverines.

There is an undisputed emotional connection for Harbaugh, who played at Michigan, is an iconic figure there, and has been hearing from family and friends about returning as the prodigal son. Harbaugh’s father, Jack, is influential with his son and he has made it known that he likes and admires Michigan’s interim athletic director, Jim Hackett, whom he got to know in the mid 1970s, when he was coaching the defensive backs at Michigan while Hackett was playing center at the school.

Harbaugh would like to make his decision after the NFL season ends, after what Schefter describes as “the players’ getaway day on Monday, Dec. 29.” Certainly if UM knew, with absolute certainty, Harbaugh will take the job, they would be more than willing to wait. Should there be any doubt — and apparently there is in the mind of the man who’s reportedly their top candidate — can the university really afford to put its search on hold awaiting an answer?

That’s the $8 million question… or $8 million-plus if you’re of the mindset that Harbaugh and/or his agent are merely using UM to drive up his NFL price.

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Report: starting DE among four Fresno St. players suspended for bowl

Ikaika Woolsey, Maurice Poyadue

Fresno State will head into the postseason with depleted strength at a couple of positions thanks to off-field issues.  Reportedly.

Citing sources within the program, the Sacramento Bee is reporting that defensive end Maurice Poyadue, wide receiver Myles Carr and linebackers Xavier Ulutu and Michael Lazarus have been suspended for the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl against Rice. The suspensions stemmed from the catch-all “violation of athletic department policy.”

The most notable of the suspensions is that of Poyadue as he has started the past seven games of the 2014 season.  He’s played in all 13 games this season as well after playing in 12 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2013.

Likewise, Ulutu has played in every game this season, although those appearances came as the No. 2 inside linebacker.  Lazarus, listed behind Ulutu on the depth chart, has played in seven games.

Carr, a redshirt sophomore, has not caught a pass this season after playing in five games in 2013.

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Kentucky makes hiring of WVU OC Shannon Dawson official

Photo credit: West Virginia Athletics

Two days after it was initially reported, and a day after Dana Holgorsen confirmed it, Kentucky has made it official.

In a press release, UK announced that Mark Stoops has hired Shannon Dawson as his new offensive coordinator.  In addition to coordinator, Dawson will serve as the Wildcats’ quarterbacks coach.

Dawson will replace Neal Brown, who was named as Troy’s head coach late last month.

“I’m very excited to bring Shannon Dawson to the University of Kentucky,” Stoops said. “He has done a great job in helping build programs to success on every level. I’ve been impressed with the balance of West Virginia’s offense and how difficult they are to defend. I love the continuity he will bring to what we’ve been doing as we build on the progress we’ve made so far.

“In learning more about Shannon, I’ve found out what a strong leader he is and heard nothing but good things about him throughout our profession.”

As he will with the Wildcats, Dawson served as the Mountaineers’ coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. He was named WVU’s coordinator in 2012, his second season in Morgantown. Unlike at WVU, however, Dawson will have play-calling responsibilities at UK.

WVU, incidentally, was Dawson’s first full-time job at the FBS level.

(Photo credit: West Virginia athletics)

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Ex-Wake QB Travis Smith transfers to EMU

Travis Smith

With John Wolford, a true freshman, seemingly entrenched as Wake Forest’s starting quarterback, Travis Smith took his leave of the football program in mid-September.  Three months later, the quarterback officially has a new home.

Friday afternoon, Eastern Michigan announced that Smith is one of eight players, mostly from the JUCO ranks, who have been added to the football program.  Smith is already enrolled in classes at EMU for the winter semester.

The rising sophomore will participate in spring practice and, because of when he left Wake, will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Smith, who didn’t see the field during his very brief stint with the Demon Deacons, was a three-star member of Wake’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 24 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  Following his senior season in high school, he was named the Gatorade Michigan Player of the Year.

(Photo credit: Wake Forest athletics)

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QB Tanner McEvoy to go both ways for Badgers in bowl game

Tanner McEvoy, John Lowdermilk, Desmond King AP

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Prior to transferring to Wisconsin from South Carolina via the JUCO ranks, Tanner McEvoy was a quarterback. In 2013, McEvoy was moved to safety, a position he played all season last year for the Badgers. In 2014, he moved back to quarterback and started five games under center to start the year and played in the last eight at that position to end the year.

With the postseason on the horizon, and the Badgers still licking their wounds from the defensive beatdown they received in the Big Ten championship game, McEvoy is headed back to the defensive side of the ball. As well as remaining on the offensive side.

I’ll be going both ways,” McEvoy said. “I just love playing. Wherever I can get on the field, that’s what I’m here to do and help this team win. So I’m excited to be able to get more reps out there and just help these guys get a bowl victory and send the seniors off the right way.

“As long as I get on the field and help the team win, that’s my goal.”

McEvoy began practicing again with the defense Tuesday. Thursday, he worked with the first-team defense at both safety and linebacker.

Despite the defensive work, there wil still be opportunities for McEvoy offensively.  Even after Joel Stave reclaimed the starting job, McEvoy saw extensive action as the running threat at the quarterback position, finishing the 2014 regular season with 574 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.  His 8.8 yards per carry was tops on the team.

UW will face Auburn in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl.

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